Marketing is always a hot topic. There is always a lot of “buzz” (a marketing term) about what is the latest, the fastest, the best-est in marketing. In all the tumult, it is easy to be overwhelmed and just shutdown, or even worse, to run around in circles throwing money in all directions.
Whenever you, as a coach, are tempted to join the marketing mob, STOP! Take a deep breath. And remember that most of marketing for coaches boils down to three relatively simple steps. Follow them and you can’t go too far wrong. Sound good?
OK then, just what are these steps?
First, decide what you do best as a coach and who will benefit most from your coaching – your target clients.
Second, develop a strategy for establishing yourself as a well known expert in this area with these target clients.
Third, follow your strategy and communicate relentlessly with your target clients.
Here is how it works.
What Do You Do Best as a Coach and Who Will Benefit Most from Your Work?
We are all tempted to answer: “I can do everything, and everyone can benefit!” And perhaps you can, but what do you do best? What work resonates in your heart? You might say, what is your calling? Take your time and clear your mind. Be silent and just listen to your heart. Once it speaks, share your thoughts with a few close friends who know you well and who really care about you. They will probably say: “Of course, that is what you were meant to do.” If they do say that than be happy, and don’t look back.
Now, think of the people who can benefit most from what it is that you do best. This can be a little tricky, since many groups of people can benefit from your work. And the ones you think of first might not be the best choices. Be careful not to automatically select the most downtrodden or needy because you feel sorry for them. Forgive me, but many of these poor people are really not open to accepting the demands of being successfully coached. As a result, signing up to work with them may mean a life of frustration and even near poverty. Think about it.
Another temptation is to not define your target client group tightly enough. By that I mean that your description is not specific enough to allow you to track down those prospective clients, in a marketing sense. It is far better to have three tightly defined target client groups than a single target group with all the same members. It is a subtle difference, but three groups give you the opportunity to craft three laser-focused messages that will resonate significantly stronger with each sub-group than a slightly more general message aimed at them as part of the larger group. Subtle. But key.
So now you have your mission and your target client group(s), what’s next?
Establish Your Credibility as the Expert for Your Target Client Groups
The hardest part of this step is your coming to terms with your own expertise. We all have self doubts. We all remember ourselves when. And all of our mothers told us not to brag. As a result, we all have some trouble tooting our own horns, especially in front of the 150 or so attendees of the local Rotary luncheon.
It is hard to realize when we look into the mirror and an awkward twelve year old looks back at us, that others correctly see us as a well educated and highly skilled coach with wisdom capable of profoundly improving the lives of thousands.
If we can just accept this, then we can get out of our own way, and get on to the easy part of Step 2. Yes, easy. Because to establish our expertise we need only share it. The question is what method suites us most and still effectively reaches our target clients and those that they listen to. Here are some choices: public speaking, writing blogs, writing a book, writing articles, creating whitepapers, giving speeches, teaching at a community college. Attach what you do to a hot news story and use PR methods to get your message printed in a newspaper, or incorporated into a radio interview.
The list goes on and on. But one activity that should not be left out is COACHING! Volunteering to coach as a community service project, and giving free coaching sessions are two excellent ways to gain credibility through your coaching.
Whether writing a blog or a book, speaking one-on-one or to a crowd, be calm and be prepared. Think of all the years you have studied to become an excellent coach. Relax and just share from your heart. You are not trolling for clients, you are establishing yourself as an expert. Share your knowledge; don’t make it a sales pitch all about you.
Also success in these venues is a learned skill. Seek out a coach. Think and practice. Following the dictum: “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn,” you will improve continuously and rapidly. Besides no one is more critical than we all are of ourselves.
Relax. Be yourself. Have fun with it. And always remember: you are the expert!
Follow Your Strategy and Communicate Relentlessly with Your Target Clients
Now that you know what you do best as a coach, who can benefit most from your work, and you have a list of activities that match your personality and fit your target clients, it is time for massive action.
Figure out where your target clients hangout, literally and physically. What groups do they belong to? Who do they follow on Twitter? What blogs do they read? What sort of things would they Google? Checkout sites like “meetup.com”. Ask people that you think of as well connected, for advice.
Once you know where they are, be there yourself. Prepare a short talk addressing an issue your target clients care about. Include how they can better deal with it based on your knowledge as a coach. Write a short paper that expands on your presentation. At the beginning of your presentation, say “I have a short paper that expands on the ideas I will present today. If you would like to get the paper and stay in touch, let me know your name and email address and I’ll send you a copy of the paper.”
Another key to successful marketing for coaches is to develop an “elevator speech” which is a 30 to 60 second statement that you can share with everyone when you first meet them. This should contain your name, your title, who you help and how you help them, ending with something like “if you run into anyone like that do me a favor and let them know about me.” Simple, short and focused on who you help and how you do that.
Set up a schedule of activities. For example, have a goal like attend two group meetings, or write three blog posts on target blogs, or call five old friends each week. By methodically following even a pretty light schedule, you will soon be in touch with hundreds of people who are in your target group or people who know members of your target group.
An excellent strategy is to offer a free coaching session to people who seem curious about your being a coach. Think of it as an audition. Describe it to them as an opportunity to clarify their goals and fine tune their plans for achieving them. No obligation, of course. Say that after they experience your coaching they will be in a better position to recommend you to someone, if they feel you can help.
Once you begin to have clients, professionally ask for references and referrals. Pre-framing your request in advance can really help. That way it is not a surprise later on. Perhaps you might say: “If you are very satisfied the results of my coaching, I would greatly appreciate it if you would write a short letter saying that. Asking in this way is usually successful, because it is a reasonable request, conditioned on the satisfaction of the client. A binder of such letters can create a powerful credibility statement.
Similarly, you can pre-frame a request for referrals of people that they know who might benefit from your coaching. Don’t be shy. If you pre-frame your request and then do a terrific job coaching your client, they usually are more than happy to oblige. It should be a long term goal to acquire all of your new clients from the referrals of satisfied clients.
So there you have it: three simple steps to master marketing for coaches and build a thriving coaching practice.
Hope you took some great value out of this post today! I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions. And also, you can click on the Twitter button below to retweet this article… Thank you!
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach